Vehicle Profile #9 Scammell Scarab

This story begins in June of 1953 at the Scammell Lorries Ltd factory, Tolpits Lane, West Watford, leaving the factory a 6T Scammell Scarab carrying the military registration 20 AN 52 and delivered to the Royal Air Force on the 26th June 1953.

RAF Scarab 20 AN 54 sister to our very own 20 AN 52

On the 17th July 1953 she was allocated to 14 Maintenance unit at RAF Carlisle, an aircraft equipment depot. This was followed by further moves on the 26th May 1955 to 35MU at RAF Heywood another aircraft equipment depot, then to 7MU RAF Quedgeley on the 4th Jan 1956, 250 MU RAF Bircotes on 31st Jan 56 before her final movement into storage at RAF Andover on 8th October 1957 being sold off to an ex forces vehicle dealer in Ely Cambridgeshire sometime after 22nd May 1970. When placed on the disposal list in 1970 she had accrued no more than 9000 miles over 17 years of service.

The story picks up again in the Early 1980s when two chaps by the name of Dave Wood and Martyn Upson bough the vehicle from the Ely dealer. It arrived running on 3 cylinders and they successfully worked to rectify this.


They decided to paint her in to a British Road Services livery, although a fictitious Red by mistake, she was registered WFX 336 in November 1982. In 1984 she took part in that years Brighton Run, using an Hilman Imp as a support vehicle. She also stared in an episode of One by One, filmed in the late 1980s the series followed the career of an international veterinary surgeon. With raising petrol prices a diesel Scarab was bought and she was sold to a Roger Tuplin, Roger bought a trailer, a genuine BR flat from Kings Cross station and after a number of years then sold her to a member of the Nene Valley Railway who fitted the insulated body from a Ford D series lorry to the trailer.

She then exchanged hands once again and she found ownership in Crowland, Lincolnshire and it was from this location our involvement begins.

Towards the end of 2019 Dave Bower and I, along with Jack Arthur Shaw came together and purchased the vehicle, now christened Madge, she arrived at Quorn & Woodhouse on the 19th December 2019.

She arrived to us in a pseudo British Railways livery of Blood and Custard minus lettering and a little more Crimson that prototypical. Also part of the deal was the insulated body trailer.  This had been kitted out as a living van and having spent a couple of nights in it I can state it is both warm and comfortable.  Over our first Christmas we removed her indicators and painted the fuel tank, vacuum reservoir, oil bath, engine cover and rear wheels black, more in keeping with a BR Scarab, we also applied lettering and the fictional number QW 6128  E (6 tons and part of the station postcode) This was in preparation for her first public appearance at the GCRs Winter Gala 2020. This went down very well and with a last-minute Photo Charter appearance covering for poor lighting at the preferred location, her usefulness on-site was cemented.

A number of jobs continued on the trailer including adding BR totems, painting poster areas to the correct 40″x 60″ and adding the fictional number T 11246 E (Owners birthday dates).

Our thoughts, however, turned towards the desires for a flat trailer.  During a chance conversation whilst at work, a friend of one of our colleagues happened to have “a trailer with one of those couplers”.  After viewing and negotiation, the former silage trailer and dolly arrived at Quorn in late January of 2020.  This needed a little more than lettering and with the dolly uncoupled, a new floor, a full repaint, and the manufacture of a headstock it was first coupled to the Scarab in July 2020 after the first national lockdown. The Scarab and trailer combo then spent every subsequent open weekend on display until October.

With the completion of my 1958 built Aluminium Container, it was placed on the flat trailer for a number of weekends for public display before being loaded on to the Medfit

October saw another charter with the whole team and enactors in period dress and Madge joined by my Morris Minor Van, we created a number of cameos and succeeded in our aim of recreating a genuine steam era goods yard.

The desires for a shorter trailer came to ahead.  With thanks to John Giles, of the Mechanical Horse Club, for his patience and advice, I completed the purchase of a Taskers 15ft trailer, it being repainted from Army Green to BR Crimson.

Our current fleet with a 3:1 ratio

The Scarabs are of course synonymous with British Railways and in 1958 over 7500 Scarabs and 30,000 trailers were in use with the company, that’s a ratio of 4 trailers to each Scarab. The whole ethos of the vehicle was to replace the horse providing a stronger, less labour intensive alternative whilst maintaining the manoeuvrability of a real horse.

That concludes the look at our resident Scarab and our lockdown features, with great delight we have been asked to support the GCRs aims to return to passenger operations on the 17th April 2021. Our fleet of engineering vehicles are overdue routine maintenance and this is to be our focus to support re-ballasting work required in the single line section as well as other engineering requirements to get the railway ready for services to resume.